Women in Focus: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm
16 November 2012 – 17 February 2013
Doyenne of photography pays homage to women of London saying “I never want to take a hurtful picture”
Women will be centre stage in a new display of 33 colour photographs by celebrated photographer Dorothy Bohm at the Museum of London opening on 16 November. Many of these life-affirming and thought-provoking images will be shown in public here for the first time.
‘Women in Focus’ will show a selection of Bohm’s photographs dating from the 1990s to the present, which juxtapose the images of women that are ever present in advertising, artworks and shop windows, with women living and working in the capital.
She aims to capture the many roles of women in society, from professional to parent, and reflects on how women are seen in and see public spaces like the shops, cafes and streets of London. The works reveal some of the contrasts, similarities and discrepancies between the ideals and expectations of the feminine and real life women in everyday situations.
Dorothy Bohm said: “I have been called a humanist photographer in my professional life, and it is therefore quite natural for me to have focussed my camera eye on women all over the world in my very extensive travels. London has been my home for over sixty years, and indeed women feature very often in my London photographs. When the Museum of London offered me an exhibition, I was happy to be able to pay homage to the women of London.
“As a woman photographing women, I hope that I have shown in my pictures that I understand, sympathize and can identify with my subjects. I never want to take hurtful pictures. I have tried to show the contribution women make to the very diverse, exciting, colourful if sometimes stressful London life.
“I was interested to know if, by looking at my images, it was obvious that a woman had taken them. I asked a photo historian, who knew my work very well, this question. He replied that in general he did not think so, but that indeed some of the photographs could only have been taken by a woman. I must add that I have always found it an advantage to be a woman. Women are often seen as less threatening than men, and are probably better at expressing empathy and emotion through intuition.”
Curator Charlotte Samuels said: “Dorothy’s work is colourful and contemporary. While she reflects on issues surrounding gender and the gaze, her photographs also are full of vibrancy and humour, with posed mannequins seeming to mimic some of those who pass by their shop windows, or women unconsciously repeating the same gesture as the image in an advertising poster. These kinds of motifs run through the work and link the images together. Dorothy’s photographs show her enduring interest in people, especially women, from all walks of life and ages.
“Over the course of Dorothy’s 70 year career, which included helping set up the Photographers’ Gallery, increasing numbers of women have entered photography as a profession. She has remained a trailblazer, and it is fascinating to see her develop her concern with the subject of women and the female gaze.
“Visitors can enjoy these photographs as a series on street life in London and on how people live, work and play in the city, or go into them a little deeper and consider how themes such as women, their public presence, how they are looked at, and how they look, are played out in these images.”
A photographer speaks: Dorothy Bohm
Mon 26 Nov 7-8.30pm
Join Dorothy Bohm, one of Britain’s most revered female photographers, as she discusses her extraordinary career and this new exhibition with her daughter, art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen.
Book in advance, £7 (concs £6, Friends £5)
Dorothy Bohm: life in pictures
Tues 5 Feb, 1 – 1.40pm
Watch two short films exploring the life and work of photographer Dorothy Bohm. Dorothy Bohm – Photographer, a BBC film from the In the Making series, will be followed by Katy Isaacs’ 2010 film Dorothy Bohm, Life in Pictures. FREE
Born in East Prussia in 1924, and resident in England since 1939, Dorothy Bohm is widely acknowledged as one of doyennes of British photography. She has had numerous exhibitions, both in the UK and abroad, and fourteen books of her work have been published. In 2009, Bohm was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Six of her black and white images recently featured in Another London at Tate Britain.